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Archive for June, 2006

Polls reveal more bad news

The public is crabby.

Two Field Polls released Sunday and today (in Adobe PDF format) revealed record-low approval ratings in California for President George Bush and continued dissatisfaction with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature.

Just 28 percent of those polled approve of Bush’s job performance, “the lowest rating given to any sitting U.S. president in California since August 1974, shortly before Richard Nixon resigned from office following the Watergate scandal,” wrote pollsters Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field.

Schwarzenegger received a 41 percent approval rating while 26 percent approve of the Legislature’s performance.

We’ll see if the public expresses its angst on Tuesday, the only poll that really counts: Election Day.

Posted on Monday, June 5th, 2006
Under: polls | 1 Comment »

Urgent call for pollworkers in Alameda County

Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Macdonald has issued an urgent call for folks willing to work the polls on Tuesday.The county has had a surge of cancellations among its poll-worker recruits.

Here’s the county’s press release:

LATE CANCELLATIONS LEAVE ALAMEDA COUNTY IN URGENT NEED OF POLL WORKERS

OAKLAND – A surge of cancellations among poll-worker recruits is prompting Alameda County officials to issue an urgent call for assistance in staffing Tuesday’s Primary Election at polling places across the county.

The county is in particular need of people with automobiles who would be willing to be in charge of a polling place.

Alameda County elections officials were feeling a sense of relief earlier this week when it appeared they had accomplished the daunting task of recruiting about 4,000 poll workers to staff the 830 polling places that will be in operation across the county on Election Day.

But recruiters were met with some discouraging news at the end of the week, when an estimated 150 recruits canceled plans for polling place duties on Election Day. The cancellations mean Alameda County needs more people registered to vote in California to step up and help on Tuesday.

The need for adequate staffing is especially great this election because Alameda County is moving back to paper ballots as the primary vehicle for voting on Election Day, after five years of emphasizing electronic touch-screen voting machines in polling places.

The arrangement Tuesday calls for staff at each polling place to organize stacks of paper ballots when the polls close at 8 p.m. and to deliver them to officials who will bring them to a central vote-counting center in downtown Oakland.

A staff of about 90 workers at the vote-counting center will work deep into Wednesday morning, feeding thousands of ballots one-by-one into optical scanning machines. This vote-counting method is expected to be relatively slow, meaning that the county’s unofficial final results may not be ready until noon on Wednesday.

“We are planning an extraordinary effort to make sure our ballots are counted accurately and efficiently on Election Night,’’ said Dave Macdonald, Alameda County’s Acting Registrar of Voters. “But for that effort to get off to a good start, it is essential that our polling places are sufficiently staffed.’’

Poll workers must be registered to vote in California. They are paid between $95 and $170 for a day’s work.

Anyone interested in being a poll worker should call the Registrar of Voters at (510) 272-6971. Phones will be staffed between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Posted on Saturday, June 3rd, 2006
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Torlakson and AD11 fight

In the increasingly ugly Assembly District 11 campaign, a Pinole councilwoman says Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, is pressuring her to withdraw her endorsement for Laura Canciamilla.

“His words were very careful chosen, but in reading between the the lines, he’s saying that if you don’t support our guy, we’re coming after you,” said Pinole Councilwoman Mary Horton. “I’m up for re-election in the fall.”

Torlakson is campaigning hard for Canciamilla’s chief opponent, Contra Costa County Supervisor Mark DeSaulnier.

But he vigorously denied that he threatened Horton, whom he has endorsed in the past and calls a friend.

“I called Mary because she’s a friend and I wanted her to know about the personal character attacks that the Canciamilla camp has launched against me and Mark,” Torlakson said. “I asked her to call me so we could talk about it. But she never called.”

For the rest of the story, read Saturday’s Contra Costa Times.

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006
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Eberhart makes his move

The first hit piece in the Contra Costa County supervisor’s race arrived in mailboxes this week.

Candidate Gary Eberhart sent out a glossy mailer titled “Councilmember for Sale!” complete with pictures of piles of money.

It details opponent Susan Bonilla’s contributions from garbage company interests during her 2004 Concord City Council race. She would vote two years later to extend Concord Disposal’s franchise deal for 15 years and raise rates.

It’s true but misleading.

The Concord City Council voted unanimously in favor of the garbage deal after receiving a recommendation to do so from an independent firm hired to evaluate the rate hike and franchise request.

If it was a bad decision, the blame belongs with the entire council, not just Bonilla.

No, this mailer came out in the week before the election because Eberhart needs a serious boost if he hopes to win one of the coveted top two slots in this four-way race and qualify for the November run-off. (To win outright in the primary, a candidate needs 50 percent plus 1 vote.)

Politicos had predicted Eberhart could slip through the gap created when Bonilla and the other woman candidate, Kris Hunt,divided the female vote. Women in liberal Democratic districts, on average, have at least a 5 percentage point advantage over men.

But the showdown between the two women never fully materialized, and many now view Bonilla as the clear front-runner as the pack sprints into the run-up before the election.

So, be careful when you reach into the mailbox this weekend: You never know what might bite.

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006
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Enviros strike Pombo again

The Sierra Club slammed Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, in two mailers and a radio ad that hit the airwaves and mailboxes Friday in San Joaquin County.

It’s the latest in a series of anti-Pombo campaign efforts by national environmental groups.

One mailer reads “Vote Against Big Oil. Vote Against Pombo.” The other reads “Republican Teddy Roosevelt stood up to Standard Oil. Republican Richard Pombo sold out to big oil.” (Check out the ads.)

The Roosevelt comment refers to Congress’ move in the early 1900s to break up the Standard Oil monopoly after its owners engaged in blatant price fixing in order to run competitors out of business.

Some of the successor companies in the Standard Oil breakup have contributed considerable sums of money to Pombo’s re-election campaigns over the years.

Whether or not you believe Pombo sold out to energy interests, of course, depends on what you believe are appropriate uses of public lands.

Enviros vehemently oppose Pombo’s efforts to open up the Arctic National Wilderness Area and the Outer Continental Shelf to oil drilling. Pombo also believes that some federally owned land should be available for mining and that surplus public property should be sold for private use.

Interestingly, the Sierra Club doesn’t say who to vote for; just not to vote for Pombo.

We’ll find out next week whether the conservative voters of this district follow the environmentalists’ advice.

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

McCloskey returns money

Ex-congressman Pete McCloskey, who is trying to unseat Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, has returned an unwanted — and, he says, unsolicited — check from M. Yaqub Mirza, a man federal officials have reportedly investigated for ties to Al-Quaida.

My esteemed colleague at the Stockton Record, Hank Shaw, reported earlier this week that Mirza had sent McCloskey a $2,100 check. Mirza has apparently has donated to Republicans over the years.

It’s not uncommon for candidates to return money from unsavory sources but this one is particularly sticky for McCloskey.

As the Times has reported in several past stories, McCloskey has lobbied for years against pro-Israeli U.S. policies and was a friend of the late Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat.

McCloskey has also attracted considerable Jewish ire for his decision to speak at a conference of a controversial group that questions the extent and even the existence of the Holocaust.

Posted on Friday, June 2nd, 2006
Under: congressional district 11 | No Comments »

Welcome

A blogger. Wow. This is a quite a haul from my summer job at my hometown Oregon newspaper, The Dead Mountain Echo, where I wrote stories on a typewriter and earned 25 cents a column inch. Al Gore hadn’t yet invented the Internet and no editor ever asked me to produce an on-line flash presentation complete with audio.

I envision this blog as an extension of my weekly column and daily news offerings, a place where readers will find extra tidbits on local politics, Web links to just-released reports and anything else that strikes me as interesting or relevant.

I hope to explore serious policy issues with readers but I intend to have fun, too. I try not to take myself or politics too seriously. Politicians are all too human and there’s nothing that says we can’t have a laugh or two at their expense!

So, join me and don’t be afraid to add your comments. Like most people, I’m a work in progress and I want to hear your perspective.

Posted on Thursday, June 1st, 2006
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »